Sunday, December 13, 2009


Tangerine Dream is a German electronic music group founded in 1967 by Edgar Froese. The band has undergone many personnel changes over the years, with Froese being the only continuous member. Drummer and composer Klaus Schulze was briefly a member of an early lineup, but the most stable version of the group, during their influential mid-1970s period, was as a keyboard trio with Froese, Christopher Franke, and Peter Baumann. Early in the 1980s, Johannes Schmoelling replaced Baumann, and this lineup, too, was stable and extremely productive.

Tangerine Dream's early "Pink Years" albums had a pivotal role in the development of Krautrock. Their "Virgin Years" and later albums became a defining influence in the genre known as New Age music, although the band themselves disliked the term.

Although the group has released numerous studio and live recordings, a substantial number of their fans were introduced to Tangerine Dream by their film soundtracks, which total over sixty and includes Sorcerer, Thief, The Keep, Risky Business, Firestarter, Legend, Near Dark, and Miracle Mile.

Tangerine Dream - History

Edgar Froese arrived in West Berlin in the mid-1960s to study art. He worked as a sculptor and studied under Salvador Dalí, among others. His first band, the R&B-styled The Ones, was gradually dismantled after releasing only one single, and Froese turned to experimentation, playing minor gigs with a variety of musicians. Most of these gigs were in the famous Zodiac nightclub, although Froese's band was also invited to play for his former teacher Dalí. Music was mixed with literature, painting, early forms of multimedia, and more. Only the most outlandish ideas attracted any attention, and Froese summed up this attitude with the phrase: "In the absurd often lies what is artistically possible." As members of the group came and went, the direction of the music continued to be inspired by the Surrealists, and the group came to be called Tangerine Dream, a Surrealistic pun derived from German, where "tree" is "baum" and "dream" is "traum."

Froese was fascinated by technology and skilled in using it to create music. He built instruments and, wherever he went, collected sounds with tape recorders for use in constructing musical works later. His early work with tape loops and other repeating sounds was the obvious precursor to the emerging technology of the sequencer, which Froese quickly adopted.

Most notable of Froese's collaborations was his partnership with Christopher Franke. Franke joined Tanderine Dream in 1970 from the group Agitation Free to replace Klaus Schulze as the drummer, and eventually he became Tangerine Dream's sequencer guru and was responsible for the pulsing rhythmic synthesizer lines that came to define the band's music. Franke left Tangerine Dream due to creative differences with Froese nearly two decades later in 1987; many fans consider this to be the de facto breakup of the band.

Other long-term members of the group included Peter Baumann (1972-1977), who later went on to found the Private Music label, to which the band was signed from 1988 to 1991; Johannes Schmoelling (1980-1985); Paul Haslinger (1986-1990); and, most recently (1990 onwards), Froese's son Jerome. Many fans of the band consider the addition of Jerome to be an abject disaster, and the band's popularity has declined markedly since.

A number of other musicians were also part of Tangerine Dream for shorter periods of time; these include Michael Hoenig (who toured with the band in Australia but never appeared on a recording), Steve Joliffe (flute and vocals on Cyclone and the following tour), Ralf Wadephul (who is credited for one track on Optical Race and toured with the band in support of this album), and, most recently, saxophonist Linda Spa.

The first Tangerine Dream album, Electronic Meditation, was a tape-collage piece, using the technology of the time rather than the synthesized music they later became famous for, and was a collaboration between Froese, Klaus Schulze, and Conrad Schnitzler. Beginning with their second album, Alpha Centauri, the group tended to be a duo or trio of electronic instruments augmented by Froese's guitar, Franke's drums, and sometimes assorted guest musicians. They were particularly heavy users of the Mellotron during this period. Most albums were purely instrumental—two albums that prominently featured lyrics, Cyclone (1978) and Tyger (1987) (the latter featuring poems by William Blake recited over music) were met with disapproval from the fans. While there have occasionally been a few vocals on the band's other releases, such as the track "Kiew Mission" from 1981's Exit, the group only recently returned to featuring vocals in a (currently unfinished) musical trilogy based on Dante's The Divine Comedy.

Tangerine Dream signed to the fledgling Virgin Records in 1973 and soon afterward released the album Phaedra, an eerie soundscape that unexpectedly reached #14 in the United Kingdom album charts and became one of Virgin's first bona-fide hits. Phaedra was the first commercial album to feature sequencers and came to define much more than just the band's own sound. The creation of the album's title track for was something of a fluke; the band was experimenting in the studio with a recently-acquired VCS 3 synthesizer, and the tape happened to be rolling at the time. They kept the results and later added flute and Mellotron performances. The cantankerous VCS 3, like many other early synthesizers, was so sensitive to changes in temperature that its oscillators would drift badly in tuning as the equipment warmed up, and this drift can easily be heard on the final recording.

In the 1980s, the band were early adopters of the new digital technology which revolutionized the sound of the synthesiser. Their technical competence and extensive experience in their early years with self-made instruments and unusual means of creating sounds meant that they were able to exploit this new technology to make music quite unlike anything heard before. To the modern listener, their albums of that period may not seem so exceptional, but only because the technology they adopted at that time is now used almost universally.

Through the 1970s and 1980s the band played many live concerts, which were often improvised and consequently widely bootlegged, and had numerous tours across the world. They were notorious for playing extremely loudly and for a long time. The band released recordings of a fair number of their concerts, and on many of these you can hear the band working out material which would later form the backbone of their studio recordings (for example, Pergamon, which documents a concert given in East Berlin shortly after Johannes Schmoelling joined the group, contains many themes that would appear later on Tangram).

Tangenine Dream's earliest concerts were visually quite dull by modern standards, with three men sitting motionless for hours alongside massive electronic boxes festooned with patch cords and a few flashing lights. Some concerts were even performed in complete darkness! As time went on and technology advanced, the concerts become much more elaborate, with visual effects, lighting, lasers, pyrotechnics, and projected images. By 1977 their North American tour featured full-scale Laserium effects.

After their 1980 East Berlin gig, when they became the first major Western band to perform in a Communist country, Tangerine Dream became very popular behind the Iron Curtain. They were one of the most popular bands in Poland in the early 1980s and even released a double live album of one of their performances there called Poland. Because of the abstract nature of the music—and, arguably, the lack of lyrics—they did not attract censure from the authorities, unlike many other Western bands.

In the 1980s, Tangerine Dream composed scores for more than twenty films. This had been an interest of Froese's since the late 1960s, when he scored an obscure Polish film. Many of these were composed at least partially of reworked material from the band's studio albums or work that was in progress for upcoming albums; see, for example, the resemblance between the track "Igneous" on their stoundtrack for Thief and the track "Thru Metamorphic Rocks" on their studio release Force Majeure. Their first exposure on television came when a track for the upcoming album Le Parc was used as the theme for the television program Streethawk. Upon departing from the group, Christopher Franke continued the soundtrack work, which Froese had ceased to find interesting, founding the Berlin Symphonic Film Orchestra and going on to compose the score for the television science fiction series Babylon 5 and several other television series and films.

In the past, the group has had recording contracts with Virgin, Jive Electro, Private Music, and Miramar, and many of the minor soundtracks were released on Varese Sarabande, but today, Tangerine Dream's albums are generally not available in normal retail channels but are sold mail-order by the band's own record label, TDI.

Edgar Froese has also released a number of solo recordings which are similar in style to Tangerine Dream's work. Also of possible interest to Tangerine Dream fans are the solo work of Christopher Franke, Johannes Schmoelling, Klaus Schulze, Michael Hoenig, and Paul Haslinger.


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Anonymous said...

ένα ευχαριστώ για το blog. Δεν είναι μόνο για το 'κατέβασμα' αλλά και τις χρήσιμες πληροφορίες και γνώσεις

CHRIS I. G. said...